Are you using a screen reader? Click here to view the navigation links for this site as a bulleted list.



Partner logos: BLM, FWS, FS, NPS, University of Montana Wilderness.net Logo
Connecting federal employees, scientists, educators, and the public with their wilderness heritage
Text size: A | A | A  [Print]

Mesa Verde Wilderness

General Location Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Trip Planning Images
People exploring a spring house.
Library image #2358: Spring house

Introduction

The United States Congress designated the Mesa Verde Wilderness (map) in 1976 and it now has a total of 8,500 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Colorado and is managed by the National Park Service.

Description

About 1,400 years ago, the Ancestral Puebloan people (Anasazi) began their occupation of Mesa Verde. Sandstone dwellings deep within the shady overhangs of Mesa Verde's cliffs were not constructed and occupied until the final 100 years of the 700 years in which these people flourished here. Then, for reasons not fully understood, they emigrated to points south, leaving many fabulous structures well preserved by the dry air and shadowy recesses of the alcoves. More than 52,000 acres of the mesa are protected by Mesa Verde National Park. Within the park, three small and separate sections on the steep north and east boundaries are designated as one Wilderness, serving as buffers to further protect the significant Native American sites and natural setting. The extent of the park's wilderness areas totals 8,500 acreas, a significant amount of which is undergoing post-fire early succesional recovery. These small areas contain exemplary stands of pi├▒on-juniper woodlands and other ecological communities. Unlike most Wildernesses, here vistor access is not allowed but permitted researchers are.

You can explore the ruins open to the public when they are open and travel other designated trails running over about 15 miles of the park. Federal law prohibits harming or removing artifacts. Because hunting is also prohibited, the park has become a haven for deer, elk, black bears, bobcats, mountain lions, golden eagles, and more.

Closed Wilderness Areas

Ten of the National Wilderness Preservation System's 758 wilderness areas are closed to access and use by the general public. All these closed areas are managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, except the Mesa Verde Wilderness. This area is closed to visitation to protect wildlife and other natural, cultural, and/or other resources consistent with the purpose(s) of Mesa Verde National Park. Wilderness designation provides an additional level of protection for the wilderness portion of the park, but does not open the area to public access or use.



Give us your feedback